Monthly Archives: October 2009

The band stand at Arnold Circus in Bethnal Green


Well it’s a spooky, gloomy time of year, so I thought I’d mention the bandstand at Arnold Circus. It always strikes me as such an eerie place. It was built in the 1890s on top of a mound of rubble left from the demolition of the Friars Mount slum, which was replaced with the elegant red-brick Boundary Housing estate that still surrounds it, one of the earliest social housing estates.

 The bandstand also appeared in the teen prostitute movie Stella Does Tricks – which, I just found out, was written by the brilliant Scottish writer and comedian AL Kennedy, author of the skullf*** novel Paradise. I saw that film long before I saw the bandstand, and have always found it a strangely isolated place in the middle of so much life. At the same time, it’s beautiful and atmospheric. And then it struck me – it’s the perfect place, in this crowded corner of the world, to break up with someone. Continue reading

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Graffiti spot of the day: Kitten at Garner Street’s black palace

garner street cat Although not a cat person I think this little painting is quite lovely, and I do hope the council overlooks it. It’s painted onto the wall of what I think of as the black palace, a big warehouse on the corner of Coate and Garner Street, just off Hackney Road.

PS Any knitters out there might want to visit

A friend of a friend is knitting warm scarfs etc for Karen women on the Burmese border and will be sending off a bundle on December 1st. If you would like to contribute a creation of your own then get in touch with her through the blog.

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More Aussie coffee at Wilton’s on Wilton Way

wiltonsThe steady, determined and very welcome march of Australian baristas into the deepest corners of Hackney continues. First there was Climpson and Sons in Broadway Market. Then came Tina, We Salute You in Dalston, and now, just a short walk from my flat, we are all very happy to welcome Wilton’s, on Wiltons Way.

This one is tres, tres Sydney, down to the ‘Lido Breakfast’ of yogurt and muesli and the broad Aussie accent of the bloke making the coffee (although they still have sausage butties on the menu, it’s not a complete betrayal of the British breakfast). And they don’t just do coffee and stuff. They also have a radio station and exhibitions!

  Continue reading


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Seizure by Roger Hiorns at Elephant and Castle

P1030341Another south-east London dispatch, this time to a soon-to-be-demolished council flat in at 157 Harper Road in Elephant and Castle, which has been transformed by artist Roger Hiorns into a grotto of blue crystals.

 It’s a small flat – and as you enter, passing a scrap of sixties wallpaper still intact, you walk first into an ordinary, bare living room and kitchen. It’s dark and dirty, with a stench of years and years of habitation gone stale, and the boarded-over windows make it especially dingy. Then you turn back and left into what must have been the bedroom and bathroom, which are now covered in rich blue copper sulphate crystals, sharp to the touch. And that is it. The bathroom entrance is so encrusted with crystals that there’s barely room to squeeze through, and very little room in the bathroom anyway.

  Continue reading

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I’m now on Twitter

Here’s my feed… trying to get the widget thing sorted but not quite there yet.

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Queue-jumping city banker rant

I’ve mentioned before the fact that there are very few free cashpoints in East London. It’s just one of those irritating little facts of life. Mare Street has a few around the council building, Dalston Junction has one, but around Broadway Market/Hackney Road and Brick Lane you are looking at paying around £2 for access to some battered looking relic that will skim your card and empty your account at the same time.

Anyway, life goes on. So last night I’m just about to get my turn at a cashpoint on Shoreditch High Street when a big, loud, drunkish bloke comes up and asks if he can jump the queue (now about four people deep) as ‘I’ve got a cab waiting and it’s going to cost me £2 if I have to wait.’

I was running late myself, going to see novelist Lionel Shriver read at Eastside Books with a twenty-minute window to neck a bagel and a cup of tea, so as to not disgrace myself at the pretzels and wine table. So I was inclined to say Bugger off, mate.

But everyone behind me said, oh it’s fine by me, in wispy little voices, and even the homeless man sitting by the cashpoint said oh go on, be nice people….. so I reluctantly stood aside. It pains me to admit it.

And the thing that was really annoying is that his voice, clothes, everything screamed City Banker (this is of course right at the point of Shoreditch High Street where the financial district blurs into the East End, eg where the massage parlours and kebab shops begin. It’s probably where he was heading right that minute).

My only comfort was that the homeless guy asked him for money and he turned back to me with a chummy sort of smile and said, Isn’t he cheeky? And I said, No, you’re the cheeky one, you should give him some money.

Of course he said, Sorry mate, I don’t have any change.

And all I could think afterwards is I’ve just saved a reckless, greedy, overfed city banker two quid.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I feel better now. But seriously, the queue is sacred. It’s one of the fundamentals of this country.

Cheeky f******.

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Ralf Obergfell’s Beautiful Freaks at Dalston Superstore

7.BeautifulFreaks_JohnSizzle&RyanStyles_byRalfObergfell I’m planning another foray into the nightlife of Dalston soon to mark (but definitely not celebrate) the departure of yet another friend to sunnier shores and will be taking my makeup inspiration from these lovely ladies. Just  check out those cheekbones on the right.

They have been photographed for an exhibition by artists Ralf Obergfell and Tony Hornecker (also of Pale Blue Door infamy), as part of East London Photomonth and you can check them out at the Dalston Superstore until November 8th.

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